How to survive

George Macvicar
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The suspicion has always been there; at least, for the past two decades. The deepsea fishery is a money losing industry in Newfoundland and Labrador.

The suspicion has always been there; at least, for the past two decades.

The deepsea fishery is a money losing industry in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Deloitte & Touche LLP, commissioned by the provincial government to verify Ocean Choice International’s operating figures in Marystown, has confirmed what the company has said about the Marystown plant. It is losing money!

The accountants have confirmed since 2008, when OCI purchased the plant from the provincial government, the plant has lost over $10 million – $6.2 million is predicted for this year alone.

The provincial government also has statements on the FPI operation in Marystown, which showed the plant had lost $15.8 million between 2004 and 2006.

The world-wide economic slump has impacted on this industry in a big way, combined with a rising Canadian dollar – not good for an exporting company – and higher fuel costs for trawlers.

This is complicated by the fact Marystown, which processed northern cod until that fishery’s collapse in the early 90s, cannot produce enough raw material to offset its overhead (operating) costs mainly because of its size. It was once said a number of the other fish plants on the Burin Peninsula could be accommodated inside the structure at Mooring Cove.

Marystown’s sister plant in Catalina, operating under the FPI banner, suffered a similar collapse because of its size and lack of raw material (mainly northern cod).

Since the turn of the century, plant operators have focused the production in Marystown on flatfish – for the most part yellowtail flounder and some turbot. But limited quotas and a decision not to fish all available quotas in individual years have meant Marystown has had a bottom line in the red.

Former FPI Chair Vic Young had contended in the 80s and 90s FPI could not exist without the Marystown plant. Since its opening over four decades ago (in 1967), this plant has been a stalwart in the NL fishing industry.

At one time so much product was put through the plant workers struggled to get time off even for Christmas.

OCI claims it has maintained a workforce of 422 people, according to the accounts’ report, since 2008 at Marystown. But in its hey day, this plant has employed some 1,200 people in good paying jobs.

‘The smell of fish was the smell of money’ in Marystown.

The FFAW union has relented on the 18 weeks of work offer from the company, but it’s standing firm against processing fish either at sea or overseas. It wants all product processed in Marystown.

But if Marystown is to survive, everyone realizes expectations are going to have to be scaled back and a survival mode will mean accepting less to merely exist.

George Macvicar, Editor/Managing

Organizations: FPI, Marystown.The FFAW union

Geographic location: Marystown, Catalina, Marystown.But

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